Players debate Aussie Open court speed; many say it's faster

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MELBOURNE, Australia—The debate over court speed in Australia continued in Melbourne, with most of the top players who were interviewed on Saturday saying the courts are indeed playing faster, but not as quick as those in Brisbane or Sydney. Nearly every player asked at the tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney during the past two weeks said that those courts were playing much quicker than in prior years.

“[The Australian Open courts are] completely different conditions than what I remembered of this tournament,” said top seed Rafael Nadal, who missed the 2013 event due to injury. “Faster conditions that I ever played here in Australia. I really don't understand very well why they change because the last couple of years, Australian Open had amazing matching, long ones, good ones for the crowd. I don't know why the people who decide to make the conditions that fast. I am not sure for the show is the best thing. But they decide and I'm just a player to try to be competitive from the beginning.”

Maria Sharapova, who played in Brisbane, said that the center court of Pat Rafter Arena played “much faster than [Melbourne]. It's one of the fastest courts we've played on in a really long time. Here it's a bit slower. I heard the outside courts are a bit faster than some of the main show courts. I'm not sure why there's not more consistency in terms of all the events having the same speed.”

Roger Federer, who reached the final of Brisbane, said the courts in Melbourne are not as fast as the courts in Queensland, but are a little quicker.

“I think even these conditions here, we'll see long rallies,” Federer said. “We're not talking about a lightning speed court. In Brisbane it was fast, but it wasn't lightning either. This is like medium. I don't know what the big problem is. Really can still play from the baseline, no problem. You can stay back, return from the back. You can do all that stuff if you want to. It's not like it's impossible. Even does it on the indoors where you don't think that's possible.  That's how [Nadal] beat me in London anyway.”

Sam Stosur, who played events in Perth and Hobart, said the Melbourne courts are playing similar, but added that the balls are playing differently.

“The balls go through the air a lot faster,” she said. “It's easier to get something on it, try to hit winners, whereas a couple years ago it was almost impossible to hit winners. All around it makes for a faster feeling out there.”

However, last year’s finalist Andy Murray says there is no change whatsoever, although he did add that the third show court, Margaret Court Arena, which now has a roof on it, has different feel to it.

“Same as last year, exactly the same. Same balls. Same speed,” Murray said. [Rod] Laver Arena is a little bit faster than Hisense. Margaret Court is on a very big slope. I practiced on that today. The court is (steep). It's weird. The courts and the balls are exactly the same as last year.”

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